Poverty rate among working lone parents doubled in five years

Report finds high housing and childcare costs partly responsible for decline in living standards

The poverty rate among Ireland’s working lone parents more than doubled in just five years from 2012 with their living standards now among the worst in Europe, according to a new report from the St Vincent de Paul.

 

The poverty rate among Ireland’s working lone parents more than doubled in just five years from 2012 with their living standards now among the worst in Europe, according to a new report from the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP).

The report, entitled Working, Parenting and Struggling, found that in 2012 one in 11 working lone parents was living below the poverty line but that number had jumped to one in five by 2017.

The high cost of housing and childcare, coupled with stubbornly low incomes, were largely responsible for the dramatic decline in living standards, the report says.

It analysed data from the European Survey of Income and Living Conditions, the Labour Force Survey and Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to build a comprehensive picture of the income, work and living conditions of one-parent families in Ireland.

Unexpected expenses

It found lone parents in the Republic were almost five times more likely to experience in-work poverty than other households with children, with 84 per cent of lone parents saying they were unable to meet unexpected expenses.

This compared with an EU-15 average of 58 per cent.

In 2017, 58 per cent of lone parents were working, the lowest rate among EU-15 countries although the rate of employment increases to 66 per cent for those with children aged over 12, a fact attributed to the diminishing need for childcare once children start secondary school.

Up to 6,000 lone parents will benefit from reforms to the One Parent Family Payment in this afternoon’s Budget
The high cost of housing and childcare, coupled with stubbornly low incomes, were largely responsible for the dramatic decline in living standards in working lone-parent households, the report says. File photograph: ThinkStock

According to the report, the high costs of childcare significantly reduced the returns from work, particularly for those employed in low paid work, with almost 60 per cent of lone parents saying they could not access childcare services due to cost – the second-highest rate in EU-15 countries.

Housing costs were also an important factor in a family’s ability to make ends meet with 45 per cent of lone parents reporting a heavy financial burden due to housing costs in 2017.

Mortgage arrears

Almost 18 per cent of this cohort were in arrears on their mortgage or rent repayments while the rate of arrears for other households with children was 8 per cent in 2017.

The SVP social policy development officer and author of the report, Dr Tricia Keilthy, said it was “clear that Ireland is failing to protect lone parents and their children from the adverse affects of poverty”.

“High housing and childcare costs combined with low levels of income, mean that it is very difficult for many families with children to make ends meet,” she added.

She said these factors “significantly reduce the standard of living of working lone parents, who face additional challenges as both the primary earner and primary caregiver for their families”.

While she hailed measures in Budget 2019 which included “a number of welcome improvements in income supports for lone parents” she stressed that the report showed Ireland “has a long way to go in creating pathways to sustainable, decent and family-friendly employment which will address the growing issue of in-work poverty among lone parents”.